Formation of the 23rd and Courna
Founded on the 16th March 1689, the regiment was numbered the 23rd Regiment of Foot. The regiment served in the Williamite War, fighting at the Battles of the Boyne and Aughrim. In the War of the Grand Alliance, they were at the Siege of Namur and in the War of the Spanish Succession, they were at Schellenberg and Blenheim. During the War of the Austrian Succession, they were at Dettingen, Fontenoy and Lauffeld and in the Seven Years' War, they fought at Minden, Warburg, Kloster Kampen and Wilhelmsthal. The light infantry and grenadier companies of the Fusiliers saw bloody action at the Battle of Bunker Hill and all companies, except the grenadiers who were garrisoning New York City, at the Battle of Guilford Court House in the American War of Independence. The regiment participated in nearly every campaign from the Lexington & Concord to Yorktown. Many first hand accounts of the American War of Independence can be found in "the Diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie" or Serjeant Roger Lamb's "Original and Authentic Journal of Occurrences During the Late American War". In the Wars of the French Revolution, the Fusiliers served in the West Indies in 1793-94, before going to Europe for the Helder Expedition and to Egypt for the Battle of Alexandria. It’s service in the Napoleonic Wars started early in 1801 when, under Sir John Moore, the regiment landed at Aboukir Bay and fought off two French Battalions. The regiment suffered 46 casualties, 6 of which were fatal. This ensured a safe landing for the rest of the army. After fighting in Egypt and Napoleon agreed to a truce, the regiment obtained the battle honour of Egypt.
During the peace the regiment was stationed in Gibraltar and suffered heavily from disease. In 1803 the regiment sent out recruiting parties to Manchester, Worcester, Wrexham and Yeovil to re-fill their ranks with 100 Privates in 10 companies. However in 1804 the regiment still had not met its target and were also asked to make a second battalion. That spring 1st Battalion had only ¼ of its total strength, and 2nd Battalion only had 74 in the ranks. After the recruitment reforms, in 1806 2nd battalion now had 400 strong. 79 were Irish, 8 Scottish, 221 ENglish and only 74 Welsh soldiers. In 1805 the 1st Battalion were sent to the abortive expedition to Cuxhaven. And then in 1807 the the regiment took part in the successful raid to seize the Danish fleet. In 1808 1st battalion departed for Nova Scotia on the 1st March. (St. Davids day.) In 1808 2nd Battalion landed in Coruna and formed part of the corps sent to aide Sir John Moore in the Peninsula. But as is famous, Sir John Moore was being outflanked by Napoleon and retreated back to Coruna. During the retreat the 23rd lost only 78 men. The 23rd was in the rear guard as the rest of the army embarked onto the British Naval ships, and the battalion was the last to leave the shore. Captain Thomas Lloyd Fletcher and a Corporal were the last to leave, as they locked the gate to the city.
23rd at the battle of Waterloo
23rd Regiment of Foot Royal Plume
The 23rd and Albuera
After two years of being deployed in the America’s the 1st battalion were sent to Lisbon. The battalion was part of the 4th Division under Major-General Sir Lowry Cole, and after Wellingtons advance short of Coimbra, the 4th Division was sent to Badajoz. The Badajoz siege force was lead under William Carr Bresofrd, who had been the 23rd’s second battalion’s brigadier at Coruna. But news that Marshal Soult was advancing on the British siege works at Badajoz, meant that William Carr Bresford pulled most of his force back to Albuera. Whilst most of his force had successfully concentrated on Albuera, three infantry battalions were stranded on the other side of the Guadiana which flooded. By the 15th May, Bresford had 20,000 men on the Albuera position and a 14,000 strong Spanish army was due to join him in the night. The Albuera position was mainly a long low ridge facing east across a easily passable stream. Besford placed two battalions of German light infantry in Albuera, and placed most of his infantry on the ridge. When the Spanish joined Bresford, he placed them to his far right. The 23rd were held as reserves along with the Fusilier Brigade, and their main job was to protect the rear from powerful french cavalry.
On the 16th May Soult launched a faint attack against Albuera, but his main force had swung south and were making their way along the ridge. Bresford ordered the Spaniards to turn to face the oncoming French, but the commander of the Spanish; Blake, refuses to turn his men as he believed no attack could come from the south. The French advanced on the Spanish, and though a fight ensued the Spanish were forced to give ground. Bresford ordered the second division to support the Spanish, but the commander of the second division, William Stewart, ordered his men into line just as French cavalry attacked him. Bresford supported 2nd Division by sending in the German battalions placed in Albuera, replacing them with Portuguese. However there was a huge delay in the move of the Germans. The Fusilier Brigade were formed near the bottom of the ridge, and advanced towards the French.
As the fusilier Brigade advanced a Portuguese brigade to it’s left was attacked and destroyed by French Cavalry. The fusiliers bravely fought off the horsemen with volleys, yet still the 2 battalions marched towards 9 French battalions. Eventually the Brigade was in a fierce firefight with the French, and the Fusilier Brigade was battered. And a constant fight was kept up as the Fusiliers slowly pushed the columned French backwards. The fusiliers fought their way and eventually the French gave up from the volleys from the British and Soult withdrew with 7,000 less men. The fusilier brigade lost half of it’s strength. And the 23rd suffered 76 dead and 248 wounded with 6 missing. Unfortunately Lieutenant-Colonel Ellis was shot in the fighting. The battle strengthened the relationship of the Fusiliers and the Royal Welch.
After the Peninsula war the 2nd Battalion was disbanded and gave 447 of its men to 1st Battalion. When Napoleon returned in 1815 the 1st battalion joined the allied army in Belgium and billeted at Grammont. After the Duke of Wellington inspected the 23rd he wrote saying: “I saw the 23rd the other day and I never saw a regiment in such order. They are not strong, but it was the most complete and handsome military body I ever looked at.” Compared to most other regiments at Waterloo the 23rd were a battle-experienced unit. The 23rd were placed behind the Guards on the Nivelles road. When the guards were sent to support Hugomont the 23rd formed square and joined the main line. After being battered by numerous cavalry attacks, one attack of French infantry and the constant French shelling the 23rd retired to their original position where they stayed till the French Imperial Guard advanced on the British centre. The 23rd advanced and bivouacked to the right of Charleroi for the night.